How Yahoo Works: Part 2

How Yahoo Works: Part 2

Submitting to the Yahoo Directory

Let's assume that you sell teddy bears and other stuffed animals. You've just opened a new web site, and now it is time to submit to Yahoo. How should you begin?

First, decide what search terms are the most important to your site. You might develop a list like this:

teddy bears
stuffed animals
stuffed toys
cuddly toys

This list will be implemented into your submission. You also need to decide which term is the most important. This will be essential in finding an appropriate category. In this case, let's assume you start with "teddy bears."

The Right Category

You want a category appropriate for your site and which has your most important term in it. An easy way to find one is to go to Yahoo and enter the term, then see what comes up. In this case, a search for "teddy bears" brings up multiple categories, such as:

  • Business and Economy > Shopping and Services > Toys > Stuffed Toys > Teddy Bears
  • Recreation > Toys > Stuffed Toys > Teddy Bears
  • Recreation > Toys > Stuffed Toys > Teddy Bears > Care Bears
  • Recreation > Toys > Stuffed Toys > Teddy Bears > Individual Bears
  • Business and Economy > Shopping and Services > Toys > Stuffed Toys > Teddy Bears > Care Bears
  • Recreation > Toys > Stuffed Toys > Teddy Bears > Teddy Ruxpin
  • Recreation > Toys > Stuffed Toys > Teddy Bears > Organizations > Good Bears of the World

In this case, the first category is probably best. It's the place a Yahoo user looking to buy a bear is most likely to click, plus it is appropriate for your site, as you sell teddy bears. Ideally, you want to be there.

Standard Submission Vs. Yahoo Express

To begin your submission, go to the category you've chosen and click on the "Suggest a Site" link at the bottom of the page.

The next page that appears will ask a few questions to ensure you are doing the right thing, such as advising you on how to pick a good category. If everything is OK, you would then choose the "Proceed to Step One" button.

If you are submitting to a non-commercial category, you'll next see a page asking you which submission system you wish to use, "Standard Submission" or "Yahoo Express." Even if you are a small site with no budget, you absolutely want to scrape together the money to use Yahoo Express. It will almost assuredly get you listed within Yahoo quickly. The program is explained more, below.

If you are submitting to a commercial category, you have no choice but to use Yahoo Express. This is the only option that will be offered. Commercial categories are those within the "Shopping and Services" or "Business to Business" areas of Yahoo, as shown below:

Yahoo Shopping & Services Category

Yahoo Business to Business Category

You'll also know that you are submitting to a commercial category if the reverse bars used in the category are colored yellow. Non-commercial categories are colored with blue.

Remember, it is possible for a commercial web site to submit for free to a non-commercial category. You just have to be sure that you have actually selected a non-commercial category. The article below explains this more:

Yahoo Drops Free Submit For Commercial Categories
The Search Engine Update, Nov. 20, 2000

Also, the "Yahoo Backdoor" system offers a potential solution to not paying a fee, for some categories. However, you will not get a guaranteed response. More about the service is described below:

Yahoo Backdoor
The Search Engine Update, June 17, 2002

Overall, it remains recommended to always use the Yahoo Express submission service, if you can afford it, even when submitting to a non-commercial area.

Also be aware that Yahoo may not make it mandatory for sites submitting to its country-specific English-language sites outside of the US to use Yahoo Express for commercial listings. However, you might assume this is the case, if you don't submit carefully. If you cater only to a particular country, just be sure to submit specifically to the regional listings. The article mentioned above provides examples of this.

Yahoo Express

Yahoo Express was introduced in February 1999, in response to numerous complaints by webmasters about delays in getting listed with Yahoo. By paying US $299 (or $600, for some adult categories), Yahoo will agree to review your site and offer a yes or no answer about getting listed within 7 business days. That's the only thing the program guarantees. Let me again stress this:

  • Yahoo Express guarantees only a Yes or No answer about whether Yahoo will list you. The answer will come within 7 business days.
  • It does not guarantee that you will get listed.
  • It does not guarantee where you will get listed.
  • It does not guarantee how will be listed, in terms of title and description.
  • You will not be given a refund, if your site is not listed or not listed how you like.

That's a lot of nots. Nevertheless, the vast majority of sites that use Yahoo Express do get accepted. Furthermore, if you follow the submission tips below, you'll increase the odds of being listed in your preferred category and with a description you like.

To use Yahoo Express, you have to agree to certain terms. You can find the formal list here:

Yahoo Business Express Service Agreement

Here's a summary of main things you'll need to be aware of, from that agreement:

  • Your business must be based in in Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, the United States or the United Kingdom.
  • Your site must not already be listed in Yahoo
  • You must be a "commercial" web site.

What's a commercial site? Yahoo's help pages define it as one that "sells something, promotes goods and services, or promotes a company that sells goods and services."

Basically, Yahoo is not likely to consider things like a personal home page to be commercial. A hobby site might also not be considered commercial. But if you have banner ads, sell products or clearly appear to be producing a site as more than just a personal effort, you'll probably be OK in using the service. Similarly, if you are operating a site under your own domain name, rather than using a free web page system, it will increase the impression that you are running a commercial site.

Yahoo Express also allows you to bypass the category submission process. In other words, you can submit without having to choose your preferred category, as has been described above. However, it is highly recommended that you do submit from within a category, as you are more likely to select a category that will bring you traffic than a Yahoo editor, if you follow the tips that have been described. Nevertheless, if you'd prefer to leave it to the Yahoo editors, then simply go to this form to begin your submission:

Yahoo Express Submission Form

Finally, a new program launched in Spring 2002 offers discounts if you have a lot of sites to submit. Rates aren't posted online, but the second URL from Webmaster World below shows the discount level. I'll expect to take a close look at this in the near future.

Yahoo Bulk Submission

Step 1 Form: Title, Description & URL

Regardless of which submission option you choose, you'll eventually come to a "Suggest a Site: Step 1" page, which will ask you to provide a title, URL and description for your site. The title and description you supply are crucial, so let's talk about them in more detail:


Ideally, you want the title to reflect the most important search term or terms that you wish to be found for. Doing this will improve your ranking. In our case, a title such as:

Teddy Bears and Stuffed Animals Galore

would be great, because it would incorporate two of the most important terms we wish to target. Even better would be a title like this:

Anne's Teddy Bears and Stuffed Animals

This is better, because when people browse Yahoo's categories, sites are still listed alphabetically in some categories. Thus, this title means the site would appear high on the page, increasing the odds that someone will visit it.

Unfortunately (for the marketer, that is), Yahoo's policy is to make the title match the name of the company or the web site. So, if your company name is "Anne's Teddy Bears and Stuffed Animals," you're in luck. You'll be ranked well for those search terms and alphabetically. However, if your company name is "Walt's Cuddlies," you are less likely to be found during a search.

What's Walt and others like him to do? You can try submitting a title slightly more descriptive but very similar to the web site title. So instead of "Walt's Cuddlies," you might submit:

Walt's Teddy Bears
Walt's Cuddlies and Teddy Bears

There's a chance one of these titles may be considered OK. If not, the editor will probably just edit it down to something appropriate.

Don't submit titles such as:

#1 Teddy Bears
AAA Teddy Bears

These won't make you any friends at Yahoo. Editors have a lot of sites to approve for inclusion. The more "honest" your title is, the more likely it will be accepted without changes being made. Or, if you are submitting for free, such unsavory tactics are likely to cause an editor to ignore your submission in favor of dealing with the backlog of properly submitted sites.

Some people also launch new sites that are independent of the main site, to help with the title problem. Imagine that Walt's Cuddlies has a general site devoted to all sorts of animals located at An option would be to launch a new site concentrating just on teddy bears on a separate server, such as "Teddy Bear World" at You could even cover the alphabetical concerns by calling the site something like "Adam's Teddy Bears" at

Keep in mind that this technique can also backfire, especially when trying to obtain multiple category listings, discussed further below. If the sites are not distinct enough, Yahoo may remove an existing listing and replace it with a listing for the "new" site.

Also, do not submit titles in all caps or with exclamation points, unless this really is part of your name (such as Yahoo).


While it is helpful to have a title that includes your search terms, you can make up for deficiencies by submitting a good description. Here's how Walt's Cuddlies might rectify its situation:

Order teddy bears, stuffed animals and other toys online, with delivery by mail.

The description makes use of all the key terms, which improves the chance of this site ranking well for searches involving them, even though the words are not in the site's title.

There's even plenty of room for some of the other terms, if necessary, as we are below the 25 word maximum. However, you want to avoid having your description just be a list of keywords, such as:

teddy bears, stuffed animals, stuffed toys, floppy toys

Instead, make your descriptions enticing. Say something important about the site that incorporates your terms. Also, do not submit descriptions in all capital letters, and avoid any type of marketing hype. Don't say your site is the biggest, offers the best prices, etc. Simply provide facts that no one can dispute, making use of your key terms, and your description will likely be accepted without alteration.

Step 2: Your Category Choice

On the Step 2 page, you have the option to list an additional Yahoo category that you think may be suitable for your site. In our example, there was a recreation category devoted to stuffed teddy bears. Assuming our site has content beyond just selling teddy bears, this would be a good choice to list.

You are allowed to suggest only one additional Yahoo category. Yahoo may choose to list you in categories beyond this, or they may only list you in the primary category. They may even create a new category after reviewing your site and considering it among others (and you can suggest this during Step 2). There is nothing you can do to control any of these things.

What if your site is relevant for many categories? Chances are, you'll still only be listed in one place. This is why is so important that you select the very best category for your ENTIRE site and that the description your provide summarizes the most important terms you want the ENTIRE site to be found for. The Multiple Categories section below does provide some additional tips on trying to get listed in more than one place.

When choosing a category, you must also be aware of special rules for particular types of sites:

  • Commercial sites (those that sell things or promote goods and services) should seek a category in the Business and Economy section of Yahoo.
  • Regional sites (those relevant specifically to a particular country, city or geographic area) should find an appropriate category within the Regional section of Yahoo.
  • Personal home pages must be submitted to the Society and Culture > People > Personal Home Pages category.
  • Adult sites (those offering content or services relating to sex) must be submitted to the Business and Economy > Shopping and Services > Sex area.

In all the cases above, you can suggest an additional category you believe is suitable to your site. However, the primary category you select should match the rules for your particular site.

Commercial Sites: B2B or B2C?

Commercial sites may also find themselves trying to choose between the two major branches of Business and Economy, which are Business to Business and Shopping and Services. If you sell primarily to businesses, then the Business to Business (B2B) section is best for you. If you sell primarily to consumers, then select something within the Shopping and Services area (also called B2C, for Business to Consumers).

What if you do both? Yahoo is supposed to classify you both ways. When submitting, select the best category for your site, then submit the other as your second pick, then add a note explaining why you should be in both places.

For instance, let's say your site serves both B2B and consumer markets. You need to start the submission process from somewhere, so you decide to find the best category within the B2B area. Then, on the Step 2 page, you would enter the Shopping and Services category that's appropriate as an optional suggestion. Finally, use the Final Comments section that appears at the end of the submission process to explain why you belong in both places.

Follow this procedure even if you use the Yahoo Express service. Don't do two separate Yahoo Express submissions, one to each category. You'll only lose the fee for the second submission, Yahoo says.

Step 3 and Beyond

Step 3 asks for contact details. Make a note of the email address you provide, as you need to supply it if you want to change your listing in the future.

Step 4 allows you to note any time-specific information and make comments to Yahoo. That's the place to send your plea that you've been trying for months to be listed, if you use the free system. Don't put these comments in the description box.

If you are using Yahoo Express, you'll also get a Step 5 and 6 box, to confirm that you understand the Yahoo Express terms and to gather your credit card number. At the end of the process, you'll also be given a Yahoo Express order number, which you should note in case of problems.

Getting In

What happens if you are accepted? You'll get an email notification, regardless of which system you used. This email will come to those using Yahoo Express within 7 days after submitting. If you used the free system, you should probably get it within three weeks. If you don't get a message after this time period, it's time to resubmit (covered below).

After the email arrives, it will generally take about 2 to 4 business days before your site can be found within Yahoo. It will show up on the What's New page first, then will soon appear listed at its home category or categories. Enjoy this time, because you'll be at the top of the alphabetical list and have a small "new" icon put next to your listing. That's a big traffic booster. After about a week, you'll slip down to be listed alphabetically.

Don't be surprised if you get some spam mail in the following weeks that sounds like it comes from Yahoo. Often it will start out, "I just surfed in from your new listing in Yahoo. Congratulations! How would you like to...."

Yahoo has nothing to do with this mail. Some companies, in particular web promotion firms, use software to scan the What's New listings, then go to the web sites and scan pages there for email addresses. By this means, they can send out what seem to be personally targeted messages.

Resubmitting & Submission Support Email

If you submitted using the free system and didn't get listed within two to three weeks, there's a good chance it was because an editor simply didn't have time to visit your site. The editors receive far more submissions than they can review, so not all of them are processed. Thus, it is essential that you keep trying.

If two to three weeks have passed and you still aren't listed, resubmit. Wait another two or three weeks, then resubmit again, if you still remain unlisted. In conjunction with this third submission, send a message to the Yahoo support address, You must send the exact URL that you submitted, but you do not need to send the categories you submitted to or the dates you submitted on.

Basically, explain to Yahoo that you've tried to get listed three times and that you'd appreciate if they would look into your request. You might also consider succinctly explaining why your site is important to web users -- you are a large and well-known shoe manufacturer, or you're an educational site that's been honored by various institutions, etc. But don't go overboard. It just might help to give an extra sentence or two about your site. Also, don't use the address to tell Yahoo that you've just done a submission, such as, "Hi, I submitted my site and wanted to make sure you got it."

Web marketers who deal with multiple sites are asked by Yahoo not to use the address for more than five URLs per week, and the proper add or change procedures outlined below on this page should still be followed.

Instead of emailing, you can also call Yahoo's support telephone number and leave a message. Don't email and call -- choose one method, and there's no particular advantage to either one.

If you call, be prepared to leave your name, URL, phone number, email address and the date you submitted your site or change request on the answering machine. The number is (408) 731-3333, or 001-408-731-3333 from outside the US and Canada.

If you still don't get listed after trying the support options, here are some other options:

  • Use Yahoo Express, if you qualify. Some people have literally tried for years to get listed in Yahoo, only to find that after using Yahoo Express, they finally got in. Don't waste your time and miss out on traffic. Yahoo Express will quickly get you a yes or no answer.
  • Try submitting regionally or to a new category, as covered in the More Resubmission Tips section, below.
  • Keep resubmitting to your original category every two to three weeks, along with sending support messages. There's no penalty for continuing to try.
  • Take a hard look at your site and compare it to the other sites already listed at Yahoo. Are you lacking in content or quality, compared to them? If so, make changes and resubmit.
  • Consider suggestions in the Drastic Measures section, below.

Getting Rejected

If you submitted using Yahoo Express, you'll receive a formal notice if your site is rejected. You then have 30 days to appeal this decision. Review the reasons why you were rejected, make any suggested changes, then send in your appeal. This may help you get in.

If you are rejected after appealing, you should not start the submission process again by resubmitting via Yahoo Express. You should only resubmit if you have significantly altered your site in some way, Yahoo says.

If you used the free submission option and didn't get listed, it is probably not because you were formally rejected. Instead, the Yahoo editors probably just did not have time to review your site. Thus, follow the tips in the Resubmitting section, above.

Having said this, some sites using free submit are reviewed and rejected, but few are actually informed of this. Yahoo doesn't typically send formal rejection notices to those using free submit, because invariably, the site that is rejected will argue that they should get in. Yahoo doesn't want to open this dialog, so it is easier not to send notices at all.

Unfortunately, this leaves many people in the dark. In fact, it causes some people to waste time by resubmitting (though you never know, a site rejected one week may be deemed OK the next).

Your best clue is to watch your server logs in the two to three weeks immediately following a submission. You should be able to spot a surfer coming to visit.

When you submit, Yahoo automatically sends out a spider to verify your page. This will appear in your logs, similar to the line below: - - [16/Aug/2000:11:37:23 -0800” "GET / HTTP/1.0" 200 13256

You may also see a variation, such as or something similar. The main thing is that this will appear very close to the time you submitted your site, and it only means the spider retrieved your page. It does not mean someone reviewed it.

A surfer will leave a different trail, which will usually appear a few days later, similar to the line below: - - [26/Aug/2000:17:42:04 -0400” "GET / HTTP/1.0" 200 13256 "" "Mozilla/4.5 [en” (WinNT; U)"

The part that says:

is a clear indication that this was a visit from a reviewer. It shows they clicked through from a link off Yahoo's submissions intranet (and no, you can't follow the link backwards to view it).

If you see this, someone came to your site. You should hear soon after whether you got in. If not, then you were likely rejected.

Do you give up hope? Not necessarily. Try resubmitting under a different category and see if that helps. I've seen one site get visited, not get in, then was resubmitted to an alternative category and did get accepted.

More Resubmission Tips

You've been resubmitting for ages using the free system and still haven't gotten listed. Yahoo Express is not an option, and the support emails you've sent haven't helped. Is that it -- are you forever to be left out of Yahoo? Perhaps some of the resubmission tips below may help.

Submit Regionally

If you run a regionally specific site, submit to the appropriate Yahoo edition for that site. For example, a business based in Los Angeles should submit to Yahoo LA, not the main Yahoo directory. Likewise, assuming our teddy bear company was based in the United Kingdom, submitting to an appropriate category at Yahoo UK might be better. Nor does submitting regionally hurt you. Your site will still be available through searches at, if it is in the English language.

Submit To A Sparse Category

If you've had no luck with your preferred category, submit to an alternative category that's appropriate for your site but which doesn't have many listings. This may help you get in.

Each Yahoo editor has a special screen they use to process listings, with submissions grouped by category. As you can imagine, the most popular categories will have many new submissions, ensuring that the editor may not get to them all. Furthermore, they have little incentive to review each new site in a popular category. The addition of a new site isn't likely to enhance Yahoo greatly.

In contrast, there is great incentive to add sites to more sparsely populated categories. These do enhance Yahoo, by growing the guide. In addition, submissions waiting to be processed in these categories aren't lost among the "crowd."

Let's return to our teddy bear company to see how this may help. Let's say there are about 100 teddy bear sites already listed under the main Teddy Bear category. In contrast, the Stuffed Toys category, one level above, might have far fewer listings. Assuming our teddy bear company sells all types of stuffed animals, submitting here might improve the odds of being listed, while mentioning teddy bears in the description can still help the site appear for that term.

Likewise, let's say there is a Puffkins category with only two sites listed. Assuming you also sell Puffkins (whatever they are), you might try a submission there with a description like:

Selection of puffkins, along with teddy bears and other stuffed animals.

Again, you need to ensure the site you submit is appropriate, but some of the alternative categories may bring you results.

Drastic Measures

Some people have found success sending a letter to Yahoo, and you'll find the current address at:

It may also help to undertake a general PR campaign. If your site begins to appear in other publications and web sites, a Yahoo editor is likely to consider it for listing. See the end of the page for a link about this.

Along these lines, I'd strongly recommend the Eric Ward's URLwire service. It is well respected by Internet editors, and you may see a Yahoo listing come naturally out of it. However, your site needs to be of high quality to be accepted for it.

Want a wacky idea? Consider a billboard or other advertising in the San Francisco Bay Area. Yahoo editors who drive to work or read local publications may see them, which may inspire them to visit your site and list it.

With all these ideas, bear in mind while you may get in, the description will almost certainly be written by a Yahoo editor. With respect to them, these often aren't done with an emphasis on the terms your audience may use to reach your site. Thus, it is much better if you can get listed in the normal way. It helps ensure that the description you write may be used.

What About The Priority Queue?

In the past, Yahoo operated special systems known as the Priority Queue and the Password Submission Queue that let some people get their sites processed quickly. Some people also referred to these as the Yahoo "backdoor." Yahoo no longer operates such systems, since they conflict with the Yahoo Express program. The curious can learn more about the past programs on the Yahoo Priority Queue page. However, I'd stress again that Yahoo says it is no longer operating these systems.

In mid-2002, a new "Yahoo Backdoor" appeared. This is a completely different system than the Priority Queue described above. It is not run by Yahoo, but some people have reported success in getting listed without paying by using it. The article below explains the new backdoor in more detail:

Yahoo Backdoor
The Search Engine Update, June 17, 2002

Giving Up

At some point, it's just not worth trying any longer. This is a decision you will have to make. There is life beyond Yahoo, so get on with other efforts. Remember, if you raise awareness overall, this may eventually come back and help you with Yahoo.

Multiple Categories

One major complaint about Yahoo is that listing a site in only one category may not be adequate. For example, a large company might have different divisions that focus on completely different product areas. It is not uncommon for Yahoo to only provide one listing for the company overall and completely ignore the individual divisions.

For example, let's say you are a large toy manufacturer. You have an entire line of soft toys, but you also sell board games and electronic toys. In fact, you have different divisions and subsidiaries that make these products, like this:

Super Toys, Inc

  • Huggable: a subsidiary company that makes your soft toys.
  • Puzzle Master: a division of Super Toys that makes board games.
  • VirtuDog: a subsidiary company that makes an electronic dog.
  • Shop Super Toys: your online toy store.

When someone visits the Super Toys site, they can get to each of these areas from the Super Toys home page. The areas are all contained within the main Super Toys site, like so:

  • Huggable -
  • Puzzle Master -
  • VirtuDog -
  • Shop Super Toys -

Ideally, you want each division to be listed in an appropriate area of Yahoo, like this:

  • Huggable - Shopping and Services > Toys > Soft Toys
  • Puzzle Master - Shopping and Services > Games > Puzzles
  • VirtuDog - Shopping and Services > Toys > Virtual Pets
  • Shop Super Toys - Shopping and Services > Toys > Retailers

However, when you try to submit each site to these categories, they never get listed. If you used Yahoo Express, Yahoo might even tell you this is because the Super Toys site itself is already listed in the Toy Manufacturer category and that they feel that covers all the divisions and subsidiaries.

Your response might be to point out examples of where Yahoo seems to be allowing exceptions to this rule. Perhaps that might help, but don't count on it. Basically, you're going to have more luck if you let your subdivisions establish their own sites that have substantial content and which really do operate independently of the Super Toys site.

For example, each site might have its own domain or subdomain, like this:

  • Huggable -
  • Puzzle Master -
  • VirtuDog -
  • Shop Super Toys -

If the Yahoo editor goes to one of these sites, they'll have more faith that the site deserves to be listed on its own because it has its own domain or subdomain. That indicates that the URL isn't suddenly going to change, as can be the case when sites are located within another site. If the sites are also different in the look and feel and truly operate differently than the main Super Toys site, this can also be very important in helping the additional sites get listed.

Ideally, you will already have built your sites this way before submitting them to Yahoo. If so, you should find getting them listed individually will be more successful.

If you haven't, consider making such changes. However, maybe you can't. Maybe you don't want to. That's OK -- you can still submit important subsections of your site. It is possible that Yahoo will list them, but the likelihood of rejection is greater than in the scenario above.

Next: Part 3
Back To: Part 1